In Search of Nevaeh: A Tale of a Networked Name
Some names slowly rise into popularity, others appear overnight like fashion cloudbursts. One of the biggest cloudbursts of recent years is the girl's name Nevaeh. Unknown as recently as the '90s, Neveah suddenly appeared as the 268th most popular name for American girls in 2001, and has been rising ever since. It's especially popular with African Americans and evangelical Christians, and as a character name in fantasy fiction.
Where did it come from? The simple answer is that Nevaeh is an anagram: Heaven backwards. Consider it kin to the many angelic names of the moment, like Angel, Miracle, and Heaven itself. The anagramming is unusual, but not unprecedented...the 1900s hit Reva was a remix of Vera.
But as always, linguistic origins only tell part of the story. A hit this big and sudden usually has a birthplace in popular culture. The name Camryn appeared in 1997, when Camryn Manheim hit tv on "The Practice." The name Lyric was born via Jada Pinkett Smith, star of the 1994 film Jason's Lyric. A name as unlikely as Nevaeh should be traceable to such a launching pad. Yet the Internet Movie Database lists no people or characters named Nevaeh. No Nevaeh has recorded an album. As for celebrity children, the earliest Nevaeh I've dug up is the daughter of singer Sonny Sandoval of the rock group P.O.D., born in 2000.
It's an unlikely launching pad. Of the thousands of parents choosing the name, how many do you suppose have even heard of Sonny Sandoval? Perhaps just a few...but a well-networked few. As a Christian rock group, P.O.D. taps into a strong, geographically distributed community where news travels fast. On every Christian parenting bulletin board (and there are plenty) , you'll find parents suggesting the name Nevaeh. The rock connection isn't mentioned--it was simply the name's point of entry into a rich social network, and the idea grew virally from there. Nevaeh may be the first baby name phenomenon created by the Internet.